By Laurie Fenton Ambrose, President & CEO of Lung Cancer Alliance
It is with enormous pride and with my deepest admiration and respect that I talk to you about Lung Cancer Alliance’s very own Unsinkable Molly Brown, Sheila Ross, who after almost two decades of untiring and indefatigable drive and focus to bring life-saving change to the lung cancer community, retired at the end of 2016.
It has been widely acknowledged that Sheila is the founder of the “lung cancer movement” that today is reverberating around the world. She conceived the reconstitution of our predecessor organization ALCASE to establish Lung Cancer Alliance – now 22 years old and nationally recognized as the highest rated charity for the lung cancer community delivering award winning community support, education, policy advocacy, and research both locally and globally.
Sheila was the very first advocate ever to elevate her voice and walk the halls of Congress to bring attention to the needs of the entire lung cancer community. Sheila made early detection her battle cry and was a tenacious and resolute warrior using her sheer force of determination, dignity and unwillingness to be deterred by her critics when it came to advancing this life-saving benefit to thousands at risk.
Sheila conceptualized first-ever legislation requiring a more coordinated, comprehensive and compassionate response to this public health imperative. She helped draft bill after bill that connected prevention, early detection and treatment research together in a continuum of care. She testified before committees and panels advocating for expedited drug approvals. Sheila worked to establish the first and only dedicated lung cancer research pipeline within the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. She urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to swiftly implement a national screening program. She also worked to secure Medicare coverage for CT screening for seniors and the disabled and established the only patient-powered CT scan donation program, Give a Scan, which allows those impacted to contribute directly to research.
And, as a two time lung cancer survivor herself, Sheila always made herself available – day or night – seven days a week — to give advice and counsel to anyone seeking a helping shoulder to lean on.
I am privileged to call Sheila my friend and colleague in a battle to save lives. Her contributions to better the lives of those living with and at risk for lung cancer will forever be remembered. When the defeat of lung cancer finally enters the annals of history, Sheila’s fearless advocacy will be included on the first page of that historical document.
Thank you Sheila for all you have done – and continue to do for our community. The life-saving work you started is the wind at our back – and which will forever propel us forward.